The Great Leap Forward

Original Text: 

Matt Rader. Living Things. Gibsons, British Columbia: Nightwood Editions, 2008.

1and none and none and none and none and un-
2zip, a light before light, quickening, like children
3of early enzymes feasting, each of each, protean
4seas gone glacier, gathering footprints, thread, skin
5for collection at the Exhibit of Humans, a mountain
6casting a mould from a city of walls and curs, women
7at wash with basins of ashen water and no reflection
8to recognize their own husbands in a crowded pavilion
9of charlatans, quack doctors, snake-oil salesmen
10shilling goat glands for impotence, a foolproof gin,
11horse semen brandy, and on the buckboard, a Christian
12with hurdy-gurdy accompaniment hawking salvation
13in the antebellum lands, where black winds separate kin
14from kin, and the people of the plains hear the coming din
15of cattle crossing the continent forty days before it even
16begins, and leaded tins of fruits and vegetables poison
17Franklin and his men, leaving them delirious and rotten
18in the head, composed of thoughts and faith in a northern
19passage from ocean to ocean that consumes them like vermin
20in the cutch of an owl, picked to pieces, or else frozen
21in the mind like that line from Keats we failed to learn,
22heard melodies are sweet, unheard sweeter, so play on
23into the cool afternoon of touching under tables, linen
24hung on the line, saxifrage, stonecrop, phlox and gentian,
25common-touch-me-not, the meadow beyond our garden
26gate opening into bittersweet, death camas, fool's onion,
27and again farewell-to-spring arrives in the parched season
28of brittle grass, titian leaves, auburn and tawny crimson
29infecting the edge of things, as dusk draws from dawn
30to envelope us in dark arms like hope or lust, wintergreen,
31the flowering weeds we kneel in without naming one
32or all or none, for that is a kind of love we call possession
33and have abandoned, Dominus vobiscum, a woman, a man
RPO poem Editors: 
Jim Johnstone
RPO Edition: 
Special Copyright: 

Poem used with permission of the author.